Model and activist Gisele Bündchen has made waves for the incredibly strict diet that she follows with husband and NFL quarterback Tom Brady, both of whom credit nutrition and fitness for long-term success in their respective fields.
But there’s a lot more to Bündchen’s success beyond the diet plan — and a lot of it is culled from Shaolin principles, particularly the Three Vajras of body, speech, and mind.
The most obvious Shaolin influence in Bündchen’s regime is her Kung Fu workout, which she practices three times a week in 90-minute sets. Bündchen became so dedicated to the routine that she practiced it up until two weeks before the birth of her son.
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“I did kung fu up until two weeks before Benjamin was born, and yoga three days a week,” Bündchen told Vogue in 2010. “I was mindful about what I ate, and I gained only 30 pounds.”
According to her kung fu instructor, Yao Li of the Boston Kung Fu Tai Chi Institute, Bündchen was a model student.
“Gisele is very focused and very disciplined. I am often surprised by how quickly she grasps the nuances of the movements,” Li told Shape in 2012.
“When I teach her new techniques, it often seems as though she already knows them. She is very intuitive and knows what it takes to make the move look right.”
Bündchen displayed some of her skills in an advertising campaign for Under Armour, which was designed in response to social media feedback that the model wasn’t “sporty” enough for the athletic brand:
Bündchen’s kung fu exercises, which can be practiced alone at home, make for a perfect all-body workout that targets a variety of muscle groups. Her movements include an upward block, a downward block, and a straight kick; you can practice them yourself using the steps listed here.
“The stance work and kicking techniques improve muscle tone and flexibility in the lower body. Blocking drills and hand techniques do the same for the upper body, especially the shoulders and arms,” explains Li.
“Drills that combine hand and foot work require strength and agility in the core muscles, and help to increase coordination and balance.”
Beyond the kung fu workout, Bündchen also practices meditation. She credits Transcendental Meditation, specifically, for giving her insight into herself and allowing her to find peace — whether long-lasting, or just for a moment.
”No one can find me, no one can talk to me, and it’s my moment to nourish myself,” told Vogue, referring to her meditation sessions.
“If I’m not worrying about what’s nourishing me, who is going to do that for me? I do it for my kids, but no one is going to come and tell Gisele, you can’t do that. It’s about taking responsibility for the life you want to live.”
If you want to practice meditation along with Bündchen, she has recently launched her own free-to-access guided meditation tours on InsightTimer.com.
Mindfulness and gratitude have also been a big part of Bündchen’s life philosophy.
”I start my day with gratitude, there is always something to be grateful for,” she says.
“We create our own reality. I can be having a bad day and then I stop myself, and I take a deep breath and I sit there for a second with that feeling – it could be anxiety or discomfort – and then I wait. I wait for three breaths, and then it’s gone.”
”Quite frankly, I feel like our bodies are temples; it’s our universe.”
In addition to working on her mind and body, Bündchen is also a celebrated philanthropist and activist. Climate change and the destruction of forests in her native Brazil are of particular importance to her, and in 2015 she hosted an episode of the global warming series Years of Living Dangerously with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bündchen’s combined efforts in body, mind, and speech parallel the Three Vajras, an important tenet in Buddhism that speaks to maintaining balance in life throughout all of our actions, internal and external.
For centuries, Shaolin monks have practiced achieving balance in the Three Vajras to achieve spiritual harmony. You can also dedicate focus to these three aspects – ensuring you take even just a few minutes each day to devote to your body, mind, and speech – to ensure you maintain balance and integrity in your daily life.
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